Local council leaders in Rukungiri are struggling to find a fair balance between the need for food and the increasing deforestation of the district.
This problem is amplified in Nyakishenyi Sub-County where numerous families have abandoned subsistence agriculture to take up pine tree farming.
The area LC3 chairperson, Bonny Biryatwita, told journalists at a news conference yesterday that the growing of crops like bananas, potatoes, beans and maize is on the decline. He said he is worried that unless this situation is arrested, many people will go hungry this year.
Biryatwita said the area most affected by declining agriculture is Katoonya Parish that borders Kerere Forest. He said people there were attracted by the promise of good returns from planting pine trees and they have converted their farms into forest land.
There are rumors that people in Nyakishenyi who cannot afford to join the pine tree trade have been forced to sell their land and migrate.
The Rukungiri District Forestry Officer, Valance Asiimwe, says this is not true. He admits that reforestation in Nyakishenyi is a priority because of the degradation of the land, but no one is being forced into tree farming.
Asiimwe says people are being encouraged to practice crop farming alongside tree planting in order to sustain their families and earn a living. He says sensitization of residents on this dual plan is an ongoing process.
Kerere Forest is a man-made forest that is part of the Imaramagambo Forest Range.